They had been expecting me for weeks. Strambino, the small town smashed up against the snow capped Alps where Luca grew up thrives on small local stores. Or used to. The effects of the economy here are visable, as most stores are empty and the employees (usually it seems, all family members) are inside straightening what is already straight, or rearranging what is already arranged. All the while yelling (or talking, I suppose) about neighborhood gossip and politics. Luca had picked out a pair of boots for my Christmas present, but as sizes are different in Europe I needed to go in to try them on.
Walking into The Shoe Shop was a whirlwind of introductions, kisses, and gestures. The only thing I gathered is that of the two women, one was named Paola, and the other- younger, blonde; was somehow related. Or perhaps not, but LIKE family, as everyone seems to be. These would also been the women hosting Christmas Eve Dinner that night.
I busied myself looking at the shoes, purses, and accessories around the store. This is a skill I have mastered for situations (more often than not) that lend to speaking only Italian and I become particularly interested in this inanimate object, or that text which I cannot read, but can damn well pretend the upmost interest and focus. After some period of time; sometimes moving quickly, others it stops all together- I am ushered to a chair.
Now begins the event of Trying on The Shoe. Though, normally this is not a monumental experience, it seems that everything here IS, and is savored to the smallest moment. So, I am presented The Shoe. (Ohhh Ahhhh Bella!) I try on The Shoe. I mention that it is a bit tight at the ankle, and long in the toe. This invites 10 hands to feel these bits of my shoe, to comment, and to rush off for another size. Picture me, surrounded by 5 people, all seriously concerned with the fit of my shoe.
Small, confused, Cori, with eyes as round as saucers, being attended to as if I were holding a royal court. As one person leaves to retrive the new shoe, conversation wanders and we all seem to forget why we are gathered, here in The Shoe Shop. Until a new shoe makes it’s way triumphly into the room, redirecting our attention back to my foot, which I have (thankfully) recently pedicured. This cycle takes place several more times, with several more shoes. Marco, Luca’s brother, decides I also need a more reasonable pair for San Diego. Mamma Mia!
Between pairs of shoes, the husband of Paola enters. I stand to greet him. I am still unclear of when I am to say ‘Ciao’, when to shake hands, when to kiss, and it seems that each time I try to read the situation correctly, I make a mistake. This time is no exception. I go to kiss him, but I stupidly forget to head to his left check. Instead, we both head in the same direction and almost land a real kiss, to my humiliation. Though I am unsure (a common feeling) if anyone notices, I feel myself flush and sit back down. When I finally leave the shop, I’m loaded in bags and kisses, am feeling crossed-eyed and bone tired, and it is only noon.
*** This is an old email turned post